Decadal scale projection of changes in Australian fisheries stocks under climate change

Project Number:




Principal Investigator:

Beth Fulton

Project Status:


FRDC Expenditure:



Adoption, Communities, Environment, Industry

Decadal scale projection of changes in Australian fisheries stocks under climate change

Final Report
ISBN: 978-1-4863-1108-8
Author(s):Elizabeth A. Fulton, Alistair J. Hobday, Heidi Pethybridge, Julia Blanchard, Cathy Bulman, Ian Butler, William Cheung, Leo Dutra, Rebecca Gorton, Trevor Hutton, Hector Lozano-Montes, Richard Matear, Gretta Pecl, Eva E. Plagányi, Cecilia Villanueva, and Xuebin Zhang
Date Published:March 2018

Conclusions and recommendations

Over the next century, fisheries governance is likely to face ongoing changes into the future as new shifts in ecosystems, the climate system and the broader socioecological system of Australia are realised. In this section we outline 8 recommendations for fisheries management, based on the findings of an ensemble of assessment tools used in this study:

 (1)   Management priority, based on short term sensitivity, should be given to: (i) northern invertebrate fisheries, and (ii) finfish fisheries with areas of regime change (e.g. Tasman Sea)
 (2)   Existing management strategies must be assessed in terms of their capacity to sustain long term ecological and resource management objectives.
 (3)   Flexible regulations and adaptive approaches are required to implement change as rapidly as needed in response to changing system state.
 (4)   Fisheries policy, management and assessment methods need to integrate the concept of regime shifts and extreme events for contextual management decision making.
 (5)   There needs to be greater recognition of non-static environmental conditions in fisheries operations and in the assessment and decision making processes.
 (6)   A cross jurisdictional management of stocks is likely imperative.
 (7)   It will be increasingly necessary to acknowledge that not all fisheries and operators will have equal adaptive capacity.
 (8)   Integrated management needs to be central to fisheries management.

Fundamental for any assessment tool used in assisting decision making and successful fisheries management is the availability of environmental and biological information. Regarding the assessment approaches used in this project, many aspects remain uncertain as scientific knowledge of system and species responses is incomplete. While we recognise that not all data forms can be provided, we recommend that priority should be given to attaining and assessing: (i) indicators of the physical state of the system; (ii) indicators of primary productivity and plankton community composition; (iii) high quality fisheries dependent data; (iv) independent surveys assessing broad system structure and function; and (v) non-traditional data sources, such as various citizen science platforms. The main foreseeable challenge will then be synthesising this information into a coherent message around system status and trends.

Keywords:  Sensitivity analysis, Vulnerability, Ecosystem modelling, Climate variability, Adaptive management


1. Synthesis of existing climate vulnerability information and communicate this to management and other stakeholders

2. Update CSIRO held Australian ecosystem models with the system status information and the latest climate impacts information

3. Run ecosystem projections out to 2050 using the latest Australian OFAM models (i.e. latest physical projections), noting ecosystem and species level effects at 5 or 10 year intervals/averages

4. Distill the fine scale (where possible species level) projections for the Australian EEZ from the FISHMIP model repository.

5. Provide advice on (i) likely impacts of climate in the short, medium and long term; (ii) information gaps and priorities for tracking climate impacts on individual fisheries.

6. Provide output from modelling as input to FRDC Project [FRDC 2016-059] "Adaptation of Commonwealth fisheries management to climate change"